../the wall has come down

24 Jun 2018

Sermon for Jericho Road Church on June 24th, 2018. Notes below:

Introduction

In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul laid out what God has brought us from and what he is bringing us towards. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ. We are his workmanship, his masterpiece.

Paul is writing to Gentiles, non-Jews. These were Greek believers. To be a Gentile meant to be outside of the covenant people of God. These truths would have been very counter-cultural, and that reality wasn’t lost on Paul. Ephesians 2:11-18 says:

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

At one time we were separated from Christ, having no hope. But now we’ve been brought near by the blood of Christ. And more than that, we now know peace through Christ, having access in one Spirit to the Father.

If this is true, it changes everything. How did this land on Greek believers in 1st century Ephesus? How does this land on us, a body of predominantly non-Jewish believers in 21st century Wheaton, Illinois?

Separated and having no hope

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

For a 1st century Jew, identity was closely tied to the citizenship and numerous covenants God had made with his chosen people of Israel. God had made incredible promises of blessing, like in 2 Samuel 7:8-16:

[8] “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. [9] And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. [10] And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, [11] from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. [12] When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. [13] He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. [14] I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, [15] but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. [16] And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Gentiles were strangers to that covenant of promise. And in addition, whether Jew or Gentile, we don’t initiate a covenant with God. God initiates a covenant with us. Left to ourselves, all we know is separation, alienation, estrangement, and hopelessness.

Brought near by the blood of Christ

[13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

In Herod’s Temple there was a wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple, and on that wall were inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles to enter, saying:

“No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

Paul may have had that wall in mind as he wrote these words. This is incredible. All hostility has been killed through the cross. Gentiles are now allowed in. There’s now one new people of God, unified in peace. This is why John can say in 1 John 1:3-4:

[3] [T]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. [4] And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John wrote these words 20 years after Paul wrote to the Ephesians. John was most likely in Ephesus at the time, writing to the Ephesian church and other surrounding churches. He was writing to Gentile believers, now united with them in Christ.

Peace and access to the Father

[17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Not only do we now have peace with one another, we also have peace with the whole Godhead. Because of Christ, we now have access to the Father. The Lord of the universe is available to us, accessed through the same Spirit inside each of us.

Remarkably, this was the plan all along, as prophesied in Isaiah 55:1-13:

[1] “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. [2] Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. [3] Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. [4] Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. [5] Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

[6] “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; [7] let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

[10] “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, [11] so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

[12] “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. [13] Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Our hope in Jesus

This is a complete reversal. No longer separated, we’ve been brought near. No longer alienated, we’ve been made one. No longer strangers to promise, we now know peace. No longer hopeless without God, we now have access to the Father.

Our only hope is Jesus. We bring nothing to the table. Separated from Christ, all we know is hopelessness. We’re dead in our trespasses and sins.

But Christ is our peace, making us one with those that were formerly our enemies. And even more, through him we have access in the same Spirit to the Father.

sermons

ephesians 2, jesus, unity